I spoke with Silas Weir Mitchell who plays Monroe in Grimm about upcoming episodes and fairy tales. It was a pleasure to speak with him and find out more about his character and the show. A short list of films and shows Silas has been featured in: Prison Break, 24, The Good Guys, Halloween II, The Shield, Mental, The Closer, Silk Stalkings, Burn Notice, and My Name is Earl. Don’t miss Grimm, Friday nights on NBC.
Lena Lamoray: I loved the pilot. What you can you tell us about the upcoming episodes of Grimm and if you have a favorite fairy tale that was covered?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Oh good. All I can tell you is the episodes get – they get sort of deliciously dark and creepy. And NBC is letting us go there so to speak which I think is fantastic. I didn’t really grow up on fairy tales per se. I kind of grew up on – there was one book that I had as a child which I’ve mentioned in other interviews which was called Slovenly Peter. It’s also known as Shock Headed Peter and it’s an old German book, forget what the German word is for slovenly or shock headed. But it’s – I forget right now, you’d have to hypnotize me but it would come to me. Anyway, it had cautionary tales in it and they were pretty grisly. You know and the idea was you know the cautionary tale of what – you know the little girl who played with matches, you know? And what happens if you play with matches, and in the end of the story she’s burnt to a crisp, she’s like a pile of ashes. So that was sort of the German fairy tale book that I had, it wasn’t Grimm but it was grim if you know what I mean.
More Conference Call Interview Highlights:
Q: Could you elaborate more on your character and will we learn more about your character’s background in future episodes?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Well to elaborate more on my character basically I suppose everything you hear in the pilot is – you know that’s pretty much as far as we get, you know? I mean I’m a Bluebod and I am sort of a reformed Bluebod, I’m trying to live as a human on the straight and narrow. And we will definitely learn more about my character in future episodes. But as far as sort of family history we’re not getting into that yet, we do learn about the clock maker and you know. But it doesn’t get too much into my history or anything.
Q: Could you perhaps tell us a little bit about your experiences shooting the pilot episode for Grimm and maybe what were some of the initial challenges you found stepping into this role?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Well shooting the pilot was both – it was really, really exciting and it was really, really challenging. I mean you know we have – you’re allowed more time to shoot the pilot than a normal episode, almost twice as much time. So you can be more deliberate, but you also don’t have an infrastructure that’s kind of set up which you do once you get a production up and running. So it was challenging just on the level of the production value that NBC – that we were going for, you know that – so that was hard to try to make it as the best thing as possible without having a production infrastructure that had been working together for a while. So that was a big challenge. On a production level for me specifically it was just the idea of you know I’ve been on a lot of series but I’ve never been sort of the central sort of pillars of the narrative really. And I found that to be challenging in its own right knowing that a lot was riding on it. You know that was challenging. But luckily we all have a great time working together. It was a really – it’s a great environment to work. So everything kind of came out well I’d say.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your process when establishing a relationship with your costar?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, there’s – that is – I can only talk about this case in particular but we’re very lucky in the sense that we love working together and I have a lot of respect for David and I think he’s sort of – I think he’s very well cast and I think he’s just a lovely guy. And he’s a smart guy and we like working together so establishing a rapport on camera is not difficult because we have a very good one off camera.
Q: You don’t do anything special like hang out a lot more, do your lines together, any of that kind of thing?
Silas Weir Mitchell: We see each other all – you know we have coffee every now and then, you know I mean everybody – you know you sort of run lines once in a while if you have a big scene but we – one doesn’t do anything calculated necessarily in order to create a rapport. One either has one or doesn’t I think and we do. And that’s a very lucky thing. They cast this show very well, they got the right people in and I think that part of getting the right people in involved you know the chemistry. And somehow they managed to put a group of people together that has great chemistry. And I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know if you can calculate that or not but in this case you know it worked well, the pairing of people. You know we all dig working together, we’re all very happy to be here so it’s not hard. You know we don’t have to fake anything.
Q: I’m glad to hear that we’re going to be seeing a lot more of Monroe this season but is there any chance that we’re going to be seeing any of his bad wolf suppressing Pilates techniques?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, I think that you know I mean I think that it’s not out of the question that you’ll see some of the techniques that I employ to keep myself together, Pilates among them. That’s a fair statement I would say.
Q: Can you talk about how you got involved in the show in the first place?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, I worked with Jim Kouf, K-O-U-F who is one of the creators and writers of the show along with David Greenwalt but I worked with Jim Kouf on a movie that he wrote, directed and produced called Fork in the Road in 2007 I believe. And we just hit it off, you know we had a good working relationship and you know he and I have a sort of – I understand his sense of humor and I was auditioning for a role where they expected a different kind of – really in their minds when they wrote it envisioned one kind of person that this character was. And Fern Castle who is the casting director thought that I might be an interesting kind of other way to go. And you know casting directors try to do that, they try to give you the choices that you think it’s going to be and then they always bring in sort of the black sheep. Just to say you know what about this idea and a lot of times I’m the black sheep, I’m the sort of what about going this way kind of guy. And it doesn’t really work out very often because people have their hearts set on kind of one thing. In this case I was the way to go and it was the opposite of what he had anticipated and so I sort of struck a nerve with him and we had a great time then henceforth working on the project and so you know when this came along, they just called me in. You know I think that they said oh this guy would be good because we saw him, you know we worked with him before. So that’s how it went, you know it’s just I happened to know Jim.
Q: What actually attracted you to the role of Monroe and the show Grimm?
Silas Weir Mitchell: As far as what attracted me to it, what attracted me to it was it was a job really. I mean there was an audition for one of the leads in the pilot so there you go, you know what I mean? Like I didn’t seek it out, I got the call, hey there’s an audition for this thing and I read the script and I thought it was cool. That having been said, what does attract me to the role, certainly I would have auditioned for it probably otherwise. But given the fact that I’m doing it what really does attract me to the role is the inner conflict. I mean it’s – you know that is rich territory for an actor to have that kind of secret, you know? Not only to have a secret but to have a secret that you’re trying to you know deal with on a daily basis. It’s not just oh you know – it’s not just a secret from the past. It’s a secret that in every breath you’re trying to maintain. And that’s really fun to play, I also think the mythological elements of the story are very compelling.
Because I really feel like in a lot of ways the creature elements of the show quote unquote, creature stuff is really to my mind an expression of the sort of mythological underpinnings of not to get high falutin’, but really of the human psyche. We all live in a world where there are monsters, monsters are real, you know and you look at sort of murderers and people who are on death row and people who have done terrible things you know like the Richard Ramirez’s of the world and the Sons of Sam and those people. And I feel like the creature elements of this show in a lot of ways are addressing that sort of mythical darkness that because if you bring myth into it you have – you can discuss it in broader terms and not just make it about you know the procedural element which is a huge part of the show. Long story short, I think you know the mythology and the inner conflict.
Q: What kind of research did you do and were there any werewolves that influenced your character?
Silas Weir Mitchell: The research I did was really reading. I’m presently at arm’s length of a book that was written in 1933, it’s one of the classics, this is no joke, on lycanthropy and werewolfism and all that. And it was written in – let me see here, yeah it was written in 1933. And you know it’s got like – there are pages of it that are in Latin and pages of it that are in like middle French, it’s really fun. Because the werewolf, like I was saying to the last caller about the mythological elements of this, the werewolf is a real thing. I mean there are stories that are not just like occult lore where you know in France in the 18th century, you know there was a guy who terrorized the French country side running around at night stealing children. And you know mutilating them. And what’s our answer to that? Who do we – you know what is that? And one of the ways of addressing that is to say you’re a monster, you’re a werewolf, you know? And so the research was for me was reading these stories sometimes when these were real. It wasn’t mythological then. I think now we recognize that the werewolf is a myth. But the research of reading stories from a time when the werewolf was a real thing is pretty intense when you really put yourself in the shoes of someone who believed that a transformation took place and that a beast roamed the hills. That’s pretty intense.
Q: Is there’s any make up involved in your transformation at all or is it entirely CG?
Silas Weir Mitchell: No, it’s not, it’s both. It’s – the idea is that it’s CGI on top of makeup but you still can tell that it’s my face. I mean there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it but the three ingredients really are prosthetics, computer graphics and my face. And – because the idea is that when someone morphs, they don’t just turn into a werewolf like generic or you know someone is like a – you know I don’t know, a beetle creature or you know whatever. They don’t just turn into a beetle, they turn into their beetle, you know what I mean? They turn into what they would look like as this creature so they really make an effort to fuse the prosthetics and the CGI in such a way that you can tell that it’s me underneath it. And that they do that with other creatures that are coming down the pike.Yeah, those are the rules, you know that you know I mean it really is to me if you think of it in terms of a murderer or a – you know whatever, kidnapper or something that they look like a human. You look at Charles Manson, you see a human. But if a Grimm looked at Charles Manson they would see the beast that the guy is underneath the human mask. That’s only if you have the perceptive powers of a Grimm.
Q: What’s the prosthetic process like for you?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Long, that’s what it’s like. It’s like long.
Q: What was your biggest challenge? Or did you find anything in the pilot when you were filming it to be a really challenging? Did you have a tough time with any of it?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, the thing that was the most challenging was it was really practical. It wasn’t some – it wasn’t like a challenging in an aesthetic sense, it was just the challenge was knowing that you’re shooting a pilot that you really it’s a – you really want to do well. And you know from an actor’s point of view it’s lovely to be employed, it is lovely to be employed in a part in a role that you find rich. It is lovely to be employed in a role that you find rich working with people that you actually like, okay? So you got all these things lined up, then you have to shoot a six page scene in four hours, you know what I mean? And so that was the only challenge. And that’s – you know for the record that is a lot of pages in and not a lot of time. So to me the greatest challenge was even though we had more days than we would normally shoot the pilot, I found the challenge to be living honestly and having fun keeping the stakes of the thing at bay, i.e. wanting it to be good and get picked up and all that jazz. Just trying to get through a very long scene you know without rushing it and making it – still making it good. So the challenge was a very practical one.
Q: Are you going to be able to keep your werewolf tendencies under wraps going forward or are we going to see your inner beast popping out every now and then?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Oh the inner beast pops out every now and then.
Q: It seems that your character has quite a sense of humor, are you like that in real life?
Silas Weir Mitchell: I have a very, very good sense of humor, yes, ask any of my friends. No, you know I don’t know how to answer that really, I mean you know I like to laugh and I have a sense of humor about myself, let’s put it that way you know. I don’t take myself too seriously. I think that you know what did Ken Kesey say, lose your laugh, lose your footing?
Q: You’ve played a lot of disturbed characters before and Monroe has his dark history but he’s more of an endearing sort of fun character, has that kind of been a nice change for you?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, it is, it’s lovely to play someone who is not crazy, any more than the next guy. I mean that might be debatable, you know I mean some people might say well he is a little crazier than the next guy but you know not in a kind of the way you’re talking. I mean Monroe, you know Monroe is definitely a unique person, you know. But not crazy in the way that you’re talking and it is nice to have that change, to not play someone who’s you know feverishly disturbed you know. Or evil for that matter.
Q: I know the show kind of centrally is located around Portland. But do you think they will be going in other areas or other cities or towns?
Silas Weir Mitchell: You know Portland has so much going for it I would be surprised if we went too far afield but I wouldn’t put it out of – you know it’s not out of the question that we will go farther outside of Portland than we’ve gone. But I don’t see us sort of you know shooting in Eugene or something, I don’t know why we would really do that. I don’t think it’s something that we’re – that I don’t think that the writers are kind of aiming to do that right now. I think Portland is so varied in its various environments, I mean really it has a downtown, and then 15 minutes you’re in the literally in a rain forest, you know in an hour you can be at the beach. In an hour you can be on Mount Hood and it has lots of different neighborhoods. You see what I mean, so there’s so many various types of looks and places to shoot that I think it’s not something that they’re sort of hell bent to do, you know what I mean? Because we’ve got it all here. It’s really a lovely place to live and work, I’ll tell you.
Q: Can you talk about the conflict within Monroe and what you like about his struggle to contain his aggression and what he’s capable of?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Yeah, I mean capable of extreme violence, first of all. And keeping it under wraps is you know – I mean look, it’s a universal struggle you know? And that way Monroe is no different than anybody else.
Q: Are they open to interpretation with the lines and the scripts?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Oh the lines, yeah, they’re very open to that, they’re very open to that. It’s not like it’s you know it’s not like working with David Milch. David Milch is the creator of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue and Deadwood. He is someone who is a brilliant writer but he’s also a real stickler for word for wordness. These writers are not like that, at least they’re not like that yet. So there’s plenty of leeway to you know move things around if you need to, if you feel as though – you know what I mean, it’s not like willy nilly but it’s certainly they’re more sticklers for uh’s and duh’s.
Q: The pilot was pretty shocking, so what frightens you?
Silas Weir Mitchell: Well I’ll tell you when I was a kid what frightened me, there was – it really had to do with the power of suggestion. And I lived out in the country and summer nights you know sometimes you wind up sort of far away from the house suddenly and it was dusk and then it was dark and you had to get back home. And it’s pretty scary you know walking through the woods alone at night when you’re little. And one of the things that really scared me was if I started thinking about the guy who was chasing me or the guy who was in the woods, if I started thinking about it, it was scary. But really if I started behaving as though the guy were really there and I started running, and if I started running the behavior of it actually made me really scared and I would have to get home immediately. So that was one of the things I remember from my childhood that as I think back on it was very apropos of Grimm was sort of running through the woods. Because if you just went slowly and calmly and realized that it was just in your imagination and walked you would be fine. But as soon as you actually start running you’re done. Yeah, it’s like if you – you know the imagination is very powerful weapon and you can use – and people use it against themselves all the time. You know you see people imagining things that are terrible or think – you know what I mean, you can use the imagination in a lot of ways and humans a lot of times use it against themselves. And that’s one of the examples of you know people like you know you can scare yourself, you know? If you went to bed every night imagining that there was a guy with an ax in your closet you would start believing it eventually. Yeah, you don’t want to do that to yourself, you know?
Silas Weir Mitchell Interview, “Monroe”
Grimm Friday Nights at 9 EST on NBC
November 3, 2011